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What Happens if You Get a DUI in South Carolina?

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious conditions that cause individuals to make poor choices. Oftentimes, individuals who struggle with alcoholism participate in risk-taking behaviors like drunk driving and driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, driving while drunk can result in personal injury, the injury of others, legal consequences, and even death.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes.”[1]

Because of the risks associated with drunk driving, South Carolina has strict and no tolerance policies associated with driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Different Types of DUI Charges in South Carolina and What They Mean

In South Carolina, if someone is caught driving under the influence there are an array of charges they could face. The South Carolina statutes set limits depending on blood alcohol levels, rules for testing, and penalties for driving while under the influence of substances based on severity.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

It is illegal to operate a vehicle in South Carolina while an individual is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Individuals with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher are considered “under the influence” and can be charged with a DUI.

However, if your BAC is above 0.05% and under 0.08%, law enforcement officers will consider other aspects (like a failed field sobriety test) to determine whether you violate the law.

Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC)

Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC) is basically the same charge as a simple DUI. However, while a DUI charge requires additional evidence of intoxication, DUAC charges only require a BAC level of 0.08% or higher.

Felony DUI

Typically, DUIs and DUAC charges are filed as misdemeanors. However, it is possible to receive a felony DUI charge in South Carolina.

The first instance that would merit a felony DUI charge is if an individual caused an accident that resulted in great bodily injury or death. According to Section 56-5-2945 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, great bodily injury is defined as an injury that, “creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”[2]

The other instance that would result in a felony DUI is if the individual has previously received at least 3 other DUI charges.

Implied Consent Violations

Under South Carolina law, simply driving a vehicle implies consent for the testing of breath, blood, or urine for determining the presence of drugs or alcohol. This is because South Carolina is a no-tolerance state for driving under the influence of substances.

If an individual refuses BAC testing, they will face a 6-month license suspension. However, individuals with a DUI on their record within the past 10 years will receive a 9-month license suspension when they refuse to submit to BAC testing.

Open Container Violations

If the individual who is operating a vehicle while under the influence also has an open container in their car, they will face an additional charge.

If there is an open container of alcohol anywhere in the car other than the trunk or a luggage compartment, the individual could face an additional $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Zero Tolerance

Lastly, South Carolina has strict laws regarding underage drinking. If someone under the age of 21 is caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or above, they will receive an automatic suspension of their license for 3-6 months.

What Happens if You Get More Than One DUI Charge in South Carolina?

DUI charges pose various legal consequences depending on the number of times an individual has been charged with the offense. Additionally, their blood alcohol content level is taken into consideration.

The possible charges and consequences include:

1st Offense – Misdeamenor

If the individual’s BAC is less than 0.10% and it is their first offense, they could face:

  • $400 fine, or
  • 2 to 30 days in jail
  • 6-month license suspension

Individuals with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.16% could face:

  • $500 fine, or
  • 3 to 30 days in jail
  • 6-month license suspension

A blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.16% could lead to the following consequences:

  • $1000 fine, or
  • 30 to 90 days in jail
  • 6-month license suspension

2nd Offense – Misdeamenor

If the individual is on their 2nd DUI charge and has a BAC less than 0.10%, they could face:

  • $2100 to $5100 fine, and
  • 5 days to 1 year in jail
  • 1-year license suspension

Individuals with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.16% could face:

  • $2500 to $5500 fine, and
  • 30 days to 2 years in jail
  • 1-year license suspension

A blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.16% could lead to the following consequences:

  • $3500 to $6500 fine, and
  • 90 days to 3 years in jail
  • 1-year license suspension

3rd Offense – Misdemeanor

If an individual is a 3 time DUI offender and has a BAC of less than 0.10%, they could face:

  • $3800 to $6300 fine, and
  • 60 days to 3 years in jail
  • 2-year license suspension

Individuals with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.16% could face:

  • $5000 to $7500 fine, and
  • 90 days to 4 years in jail
  • 2-year license suspension

A blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.16% could lead to:

  • $7500 to $10,000 fine, and
  • 6 months to 5 years in jail
  • 2-year license suspension

4th Offense – Felony

Fourth-time offenders with a BAC of 0.10% or less could face:

  • 1-5 years in jail
  • Permanent license revocation

Individuals with a BAC level of 0.10% to 0.16% could face:

  • 2-6 years in jail
  • Permanent license revocation

A blood alcohol content (BAC) of higher than 0.16% could lead to:

  • 3-7 years in jail
  • Permanent license revocation

Find Help Today

If you or a loved one have been convicted of a DUI charge in South Carolina and need treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction, you’ve come to the right place.

Substance use disorders are difficult to deal with, especially without any help. That is why our experienced and caring staff emphasizes providing every patient with the support they need.

For more information on our alcoholism treatment program, contact South Carolina Addiction Treatment Center today.

References:

  1. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving#:~:text=Overview,These%20deaths%20were%20all%20preventable.
  2. https://law.justia.com/codes/south-carolina/2016/title-56/chapter-5/section-56-5-2945/

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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